Homeless On The Mall

Meet David Fraser and Alex Fox, two students from the University of Regina freezing their asses off for 5 Days for the Homeless, an awareness- and fund-raising event 5 Days for the Homeless. David’s in pre-journalism and Alex is in business school. They’re great.

5 Days for the Homeless is a national event  originally started in 2005 by University of Alberta business school students who were tried of being viewed as the next generation of corporate sociopaths to not give a crap about the issues in their community. For five days, David, Alex and three other students will sleep outside (they have sleeping bags and a pillow), go without showers, computers, cell phones and money, and rely on donations for all their food.

IMPORTANT BIT: The event is a fund-raiser for Carmichael Outreach, a non-profit organization that helps people dealing with homelessness, poverty, addictions, violence, hunger and other social ills. You may make donations online by clicking here. You can make cash donations or drop off canned or other non-perishable foods at any of the event’s stations around campus.

Please consider making a donation.

To read more about 5 Days for the Homeless, click  here. To read more about Carmichael Outreach, click here.

And now, a savage, editorializing tangent–which I shall unleash after the jump. There will be bad language and extreme ranting. You have been warned.

HOLY FUCKING CRAP ON A CRUMPET.

So it’s fantastic that business students and students from other faculties are making this event happen. Beyond being part of a fund-raiser that pulled in $170,000 last year, students are learning a little bit about what it’s like to be homeless and presumably developing some empathy for people who drew an unlucky card in life. This is honourable and important. They’re doing what you’re supposed to do at university — earning an education that goes beyond classes, essays, exams and studying.

So before I froth, let me be clear: 5 Days for the Homeless is a great thing, the students involved are heroes and  I hope this event continues for many years. It has my support. And yes, I donated.

But there is an irony here that has to be pointed out.

The event was founded by Alberta business students (specifically, Edmonton AKA “Redmonton”) who apparently were unhappy with the way business people are perceived. Well, with apologies to business students I would probably like and admire and respect, there are good fucking reasons people like me are fucking furious with the bullshit business “elite” in this country.

Simply put: corporate Canada constantly lobbies for policies that privilege their short-term interests over the needs of our society. And they’re fucking wrecking my country.

One big example: business lobby groups constantly push for tax cuts. Constantly. But when you slash corporate taxes you damage the ability of the public sector to do its job. We need governments to do more than build roads, run schools and provide health care (which I must point out, much of the United States’ corporate community is rabidly opposed to). Society needs income support programs, equity initiatives, funding for retraining as the economy changes and grants to important but economically-awkward sectors (like arts and culture). These are all needs that are hopelessly beyond the ability of volunteers and charities to address — and that’s not a slight to either volunteers or charities.

If we want a stable and prosperous society, we need government. Civilization isn’t free.

And you can’t be all Mr. or Ms. pro-tax cut business person and then say you care about the homeless. If you’re constantly arguing against an adequately-resourced public sector, you don’t really care about homeless people. Your actions are more important than your words. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Bottom line: The reckless and constant push for tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts is a hate crime against democracy and civilization. And yet, we live in a country that has a structural deficit because it doesn’t collect enough taxes. Gee I wonder why the fuck that is?

Some more examples of the business “community” doing evil off the top of my head:  business organizations fighting minimum wage increases. Resource companies blackmailing governments into lowering resource royalty rates. Business groups lobbying for anti-union legislation. Industry groups fighting to weaken regulations (and the ability to enforce regulation) that protect public safety. Corporate-funded think-tanks churning out propaganda justifying their scummy, self-serving agenda. The whole, ugly corporate affliction of greed, stupidity, fact-aversion and blindness to the destruction of our planet’s ability to support or species.

My adulthood started in a country with well-funded post-secondary education, generous unemployment insurance benefits, great public programs and a generally pleasing level of prosperity, that of course still had lots of room fopr improvement. At the midpoint of my life, we have food banks everywhere, the environment is degraded and damaged, the gap between rich and poor is widening and college students graduate with debt in the 20K range.

There are things that are better: you’re legally allowed to be gay and it’s  really tough to get away with racism. So socially, we’re getting better. We’re smarter in some ways too — while we don’t do enough for the environment, awareness is growing. Plus there’s more understanding by politicians of issues like the importance of good urban planning. Things are far from all bad.

But structurally, we’re falling apart. And on the rare occasion we actually get a new, needed public program like national day care, some jackass government with a piddly 35 per cent (or so) of public support votes to cancel it before it gets started.

Look. I’m a small business owner and I co-own/work for a company that just wants to bring some more knowledge and playfulness into the world. I know that small businesses are generally run by  decent people. And I like business. I don’t want to live in a communist country. I just want my civilization to be better, smarter and nicer.

But when I walk down the mall and I see that the local business school is sponsoring a homelessness awareness event in a city with a politically-enabled housing crisis and 0.6 per cent vacancy rate, I puke in my mouth a little bit.

Here’s hoping that the next generation of Canada’s business leaders are better than the current batch of jerks and idiots.

If 5 Days for the Homeless is any indication, we’ve got a shot.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth will never, ever pass up a chance to make a Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo pun.

1 thought on “Homeless On The Mall”

  1. In university I made a vow to only ever use my marketing powers for good, and never ever for evil. I think I’ve done okay, working for the past ten years exclusively for government or non-profits. (And for the record, I’m done with government. Non-profits forever!)

    We were never taught to be evil in university, either, by the way. I don’t ever remember being taught how to lobby for lower taxes. Nope, that has nothing to do with business school. Blame the Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation if ya wanna blame someone. THEY are who I blame.

    I would enjoy seeing a left wing corporate group pop up. A Chamber of Non-exploitative Commerce.

    I have tons of friends who are artists and generally they freak out whenever I suggest that they employ business practices to further their art and their careers in art (so, y’know, they don’t have to work in coffeeshops their entire lives while they try to do creative things on their off days but in fact they are too tired to do art so instead they just work in a coffeeshop). It’s frustrating. I’m not trying to tell them to crush the competition, but to invite the media to some of their things so that the general public hears about it would be pretty groovy. Or even just trying to teach them how to use Etsy.

    I would like people to understand that basic business principles are not inherently evil. They can be used for good, and are used for good all the time.

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